NEW YORK – Fox Sports 1, Fox’s well-funded, fully stocked, wannabe ESPN-killer, began airing Saturday morning. As Curt Menefee appeared on-screen to deliver the fledgling network’s mission statement, the ticker crawling across the bottom of the screen flickered to life.
“Our promise to you is we will share your passion for the game, never take ourselves too seriously, and most importantly, never put ourselves before the game or the athletes,” Menefee said, as the ticker displayed NASCAR’s Pure Michigan’s 400 lineup. Can a sports channel be a sports channel if it doesn’t use every single pixel of screen space to share inessential information with its viewers? FS1 may be new, but it’s not going to be the network that finds out.
FS1, using the power and pocketbook of the Murdoch empire, has what no wannabe ESPN rival has had in the past: big-time sporting events. (Or, it will. Right now, it has the very popular UFC bouts and a first-night champ who, in honor of FS1’s premiere, orated a trash-talk poem that would have made a professional wrestler proud.)
Launching a 24-hour network in sports’ sleepiest season and being perfectly passable is no small accomplishment, but still, everything on FS1 is acceptable without being remarkable. Fox Sports Live is nearly indistinguishable from SportsCenter, except that its scroll of superfluous information – This day in sports history! – runs down the right side of the screen and not the left.
Onrait and O’Toole do a solid Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick impersonation, but the most interesting part of their shtick is their Canadian pronunciation of the word “Out,” which, for a limited time only, turns every baseball segment into a nationality crisis. Will Americans accept their baseball news if it’s delivered by a Canadian?